Briefly Noted

    Too Much Paper? Shred It!

    With identity theft on the rise, some advisers recommend that individuals consider the purchase of a personal home shredder to dispose of personal financial documents that are no longer needed.

    Which documents are important enough to keep and which should be destroyed? Legend Financial Advisors, a fee-only advisory firm based in Pittsburgh, provides a quick rundown:

    Shred Store
  • Pre-approved credit offers
  • Charge receipts
  • Credit applications
  • Insurance forms
  • Past bank statements
  • Expired charge cards
  • Brokerage statements
  • College financial aid (until 10 years after loan repaid)
  • Credit report (until new one arrives)
  • Employee benefits
  • Insurance policies/invoices (until a year after replacing policy)
  • Property tax assessment (until new one arrives)
  • Real estate deeds (until 10 years after property sold)
  • Retirement plan benefits
  • Stock/bond certifications (until security is sold)
  • Trusts (until new one signed)
  • Wills (until new one signed)
  • Source: Legend Financial Advisors.

    Where Employees Invest Their 401(k)s

    How do employees invest their 401(k) plan assets? According to a recent survey by the Profit-Sharing Council of America, large-company 401(k) plan assets were invested as follows:

    Balanced stock/bond fund 9.5%
    Actively managed bonds 5.8%
    Domestic bond index 1.5%
    Cash 7.9%
    Company stock 7.1%
    U.S. stocks (active) 27.9%
    U.S. stocks (indexed) 10.3%
    International stocks (active) 4.0%
    International stocks (indexed) 0.4%
    Lifestyle/lifestage funds 3.8%
    Real estate fund 0.2%
    Self-directed broker 1.7%
    Self-directed mutual fund 0.8%
    Stable value 15.8%
    Other 3.3%

    Source: The Profit Sharing/401(k) Council of America 2002 Survey.

    Series HH Bond Offerings End August 31

    The Bureau of the Public Debt recently announced that Series HH Savings Bonds would no longer be offered to the public after August 31, 2004. HH Bonds issued through August 2004 will continue to earn interest until they reach final maturity 20 years after issue. HH bonds, issued since 1980, are available in exchange for Series E or EE bonds. HH bonds are current-income securities that pay interest semiannually.

    After the HH offering is withdrawn, holders of eligible E or EE bonds may choose to invest the proceeds of maturing issues in marketable Treasury bills or notes at auction, or new Series EE or I savings bonds. For more information, go to the Savings Bonds section at

    Source: Bureau of the Public Debt.

    Preventative Medicine: Keep Track of Your Investments

    Whether you trade on your own or use a broker or adviser, it is important to monitor your investments to prevent minor mistakes from turning into major problems. According to the NASD (National Association of Securities Dealers), you can protect yourself by taking the following steps:

    1. Read and keep all documents that you receive from your broker, mutual fund or investment adviser. Check to make sure your confirmations and account statements are accurate.

    2. Keep good notes of communications with your broker or adviser.

    3. Get all confirmations and account statements sent directly to you or, if you can’t look after your own investments, get copies sent to someone you trust so that there is always a pair of independent eyes looking after you.

    4. If you don’t get account statements or confirmations, follow up. If you are not receiving these documents on a regular basis, that could be a sign of trouble.

    5. Ask questions about any information you receive about your investments that you don’t understand. If investments that you did not authorize appear on your confirmations or account statements, contact your broker or adviser at once.

    6. Consider getting on-line access to your account to review your account whenever you want and verify information that you received from your broker or adviser.

    7. Do not make checks or other payments payable to your broker, adviser or another individual for an investment. In most cases, money should only be sent to your brokerage firm, its clearing firm, or another financial institution.

    8. Meet with your broker and visit the firm, if possible.

    9. Conduct independent research on investments recommended by a broker or adviser. Ideally, you should independently verify information by thoroughly reading prospectuses, research reports, offering materials, annual reports (Form 10-K), quarterly reports (Form 10-Q), and other SEC filings (which can be accessed at

    10. Periodically review your portfolio. As part of this review, check the information that is on file at your brokerage firm regarding your accounts, such as new account agreements, margin account agreements, option account agreements, discretionary account agreements, and any correspondence. You have a right to know what is on file about you and the firm’s records must accurately reflect important information about you such as your age, income, net worth, financial status, long-term goals, and investment objectives.

    Source: National Association of Securities Dealers, Inc. (NASD).